Strangers to Us All Lawyers and Poetry

William Livingston


First governor of New Jersey | lawyer | man of learning | poet
delegate to the Constitutional convention

William Livingston was born in Albany, New York and grew up there. He began his studies at Yale College in 1737 and graduated at the head of his class in 1741. Livingston read law with James Alexander in New York City, but feel out of favor with Alexander upon publication of an essay about the nature of his studies. He finished his legal studies with Mr. William Smith. During the course of these studies he published his poem, "Philosophie Solitude" in 1847 and was admitted to the New York bar in 1748. In 1752 he published, with William Smith, Jr., the first digest of the Colony Laws and began publication of a weekly political journal. He became involved in politics and served in the New York legislature in 1759-1760. With the influence of the Whig party in decline, Livingston moved to New Jersey in 1772 where he took up farming, albeit unsuccessfully. He returned to politics and represented New Jersey in the first and second Continental Congresses and joined the New Jersey Union forces in 1776. After the war he was the first governor of New Jersey and was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1787. He died at Elizabethtown, New Jersey on July 25, 1790.

[Sources: Webster's American Biographies 638-39 (Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Western Inc., 1974)(Charles Van Doren, gen. ed.); Evert A. & George L. Duyckinck, The Cyclopedia of American Literature 161-165 (Philadelphia: William Rutter & Co., 1880)(Vol. 2)][See also: Samuel Kettell, Specimens of American Poetry 139-144 (New York: Benjamin Blom, 1829)(vol.1)](online text)]

William Livingston

William Livingston | William Livingston: New Jersey

William Livingston (1723-1790) | A Biography of William Livingston

William Livingston | Image of Livingston | Of Party Divisions


William Livingston, Philosophic Solitude: or, The Choice of a Rural Life, a Poem (New York: printed by James Parker, 1747)


William Livingston, The Syntactical Atlas (Middlebury, Vermont: Copeland and Allen, printers, 1817)

Carl E. Prince (ed.), The Papers of William Livingston (Trenton: New Jersey Historical Commission, 1979-1988)(5 vols.)


Theodore Sedgwick, A Memoir of the Life of William Livingston (New York: J. & J. Harper, 1833) [online text]

Bibliography: Articles

Milton M. Klein, The Rise of the New York Bar: The Legal Career of William Livingston, 15 (3) William and Mary Quarterly 334-358 (1958)

Research Resources

The Papers of William Livingston, 1771-1790
UMI Research Collections

Bench and Bar of Essex County, New Jersey
a history compiled by William H. Shaw and published in 1884